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AZINGER WINS, BUT COUPLES CLEANS UP

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Fred Couples was embarrassed. Paul Azinger was nervous.

Both found remedies with their own versions of victory in the Tour Championship."I was more nervous than I've ever been in my life," Azinger said. "I was so nervous I couldn't sleep much the night before, and when I did I dreamed I missed my starting time."

But he made his starting time just fine, conquered his quivering nerves and held on for a three-shot victory Sunday in the rich, season-ending tournament that salvaged his season.

"I think it's tougher playing for prestige than for money," he said, "and this is now a prestige event. Before, this tournament was just 30 guys playing for a lot of money.

"But it means a lot more now. And for me, it meant getting into the World Series (of Golf next year) and the Tournament of Champions (opening the 1993 season) and (the unofficial Johnnie Walker World Championship in) Jamaica next month.

"There was a lot riding on this tournament."

And there was a lot riding on it for Couples, too. He came into this tournament, the final official event of the season, holding precarious leads in all the major, season-long races: the PGA Player of the Year standings, the Vardon Trophy (for low scoring average) and the money-winning title.

"After two rounds, I was dead last," Couples recalled. "I felt terrible. I was demoralized."

But he pulled himself together, played the last two rounds in 66-66 - 132 on one of golf's great courses, and won all three titles.

Couples, who scored his third victory of the season in the Masters and then didn't win again, took the Arnold Palmer Trophy as the year's leading money-winner with $1,344,188 .

Azinger collected $360,000 from the total purse of $2 million, became only the 10th player to go over $5 million in career earnings and, with a $929,863 total for the year, surpassed $900,000 for the third time.

Corey Pavin and Lee Janzen tied for second at 279, each with a closing 68. Each won $177,000.

Keith Clearwater came on with a 67 and was fourth alone at 282. Couples and Ray Floyd tied at 283 and were the only others to break par for four rounds. Floyd, 50, had a 69.